Knopp, Holmdahl, Dunne win assembly seats

The borough assembly will see three new faces beginning Oct. 19.

After a four-way race for the borough assembly seat in District 1, Gary Knopp emerged as the leader Tuesday night with all precincts reporting, but absentee ballots still to be counted.

Three seats in the borough assembly were up for election this cycle. While two incumbents were leaving, District 1’s incumbent ran against three hopefuls while the other two races saw two candidates each.

Knopp will return to the District 1 assembly seat after leaving it in 2012. A nearly 40-year Alaska resident, Knopp initially served on the assembly from 2006-2012. He ran again because several upcoming issues are important to him, he said.

Tuesday found Knopp “pushing dirt” — Knopp is an independent contractor by trade. Knopp’s main campaign tactic was to send out letters to every constituent explaining his positions and his reasons for running. Many older voters knew him from his previous election, he said.

Reached Tuesday night, Knopp said he was glad the race was so competitive between the four candidates and that he was glad all four decided to run.

“I was extremely happy that we had a race,” Knopp said. “It was a hard race to gauge because all the candidates ran a really good campaign, and most races I guess we have a better feel for. This one here I couldn’t begin to guess.”

Wartinbee said that although he was disappointed in the loss as of Tuesday night, he would be watching for the absentee votes to be counted. He also said that if anyone were to beat him, he was glad it was Knopp.

“Obviously, if you’re in the race and you don’t win, you’re disappointed,” Wartinbee said. “But if somebody’s gotta beat me, I told Gary ‘I hope it’s you.’ Gary’s a good guy, and he’ll do a good job.”

Two other races on the peninsula saw newcomers introduced to the borough assembly. Representatives Sue McClure from Seward and Mako Haggerty from Homer reached the two-term limit and will be succeeded by Brandii Holmdahl and Willy Dunne, respectively.

Holmdahl is originally from Soldotna and has also lived in Nikiski and Sterling. She is currently a corporate quality operations manager at Icicle Seafoods in Seward and the mother of three teenagers.

She ran against Kenn Carpenter, a procurement officer for AVTEC and 10-year Seward resident. She said she intends to better represent the voice of the east side of the Kenai Peninsula on the assembly. The voter turnout was relatively high for her district — nearly 34 percent in Seward/Lowell Point and nearly 20 percent in Cooper Landing — and she said she was impressed by it.

“I think Kenn did really well getting his name out there, and I think it was pretty close,” Holmdahl said. “I was really impressed with the voter turnout for how small of an election it was, with it just being an assembly election mostly.”

In the District 9 race between two political novices, Willy Dunne, 60, handily defeated Dawson Slaughter, 25, with 56.26 percent to 43.51 percent in unofficial results. Dunne, of Fritz Creek, led in all precincts except Slaughter’s home town of Anchor Point, where Slaughter won with 68.56 percent.

While new to elected office, Dunne has served on boards and commissions and as a 28-year Homer resident is widely known. He credited his election to that experience. Dunne also said he thought his message resonated better with voters.

“I feel like I was much more willing to listen and compromise with diverse groups and he was much more rigid with his opinions,” Dunne said.

Slaughter said while he and Dunne differed on many issues, they also agreed on some.

“For him (Dunne) representing this district, I do want to talk to him,” Slaughter said. “I look forward to a good relationship ... I wish him the best of luck.”

Slaughter overcame a teenage battle with multiple sclerosis and said earlier a positive attitude helped him overcome that. That attitude carried through into his campaign.

“It was a good run. We didn’t get the numbers, but that’s OK,” Slaughter said. “It’s not always going to go the way you want to. I think the numbers I did get for running my first campaign and my age, it was a good run.”

Dunne said he tried to reach out to the diverse precincts of the 3,400-square mile District 9.

“I contacted folks across the bay and in Nanwalek,” Dunne said. “I had support in Seldovia and Nanwalek. I had campaign signs all the way from Anchor Point to the end of East End Road. I seemed to have pretty wide support from all the precincts, all the communities.”

Slaughter called his campaign a learning experience.

“I’m not discouraged at all,” he said. “It was super fun. I got to meet a lot of good people.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com. Reach Michael Armstrong at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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